18-year-old Ernest G. Lyons arrives in San Francisco during the height of the California Gold Rush. He and his father establish a general merchandising operation in the Sierra Nevada foothills. E.G. Lyons & Co. is founded.
E.G. Lyons returns to San Francisco and eventually acquires a local distiller and manufacturer of syrups, cordials, and bitters. The entity is also a wholesale dealer of wines and liquors.
E.G. Lyons & Co. continues its focus and expansion of the distilling operation. During this period, distilled items such as bitters and Jamaica Ginger are marketed as medicinal products for their ability to help relieve common ailments. Lyons’ Celebrated Stomach Bitters rise in popularity. The addition of family members to ownership initiates an entity name change to E.G. Lyons & Raas Co.
Lyons begins to diversify in recognition of the growing Temperance movement. Glace Fruits, the traditional French confection, are added to the product portfolio. Marketed in attractive boxes and tins, Lyons’ California Glace Fruits soon become a regional favorite.
Lyons Root Beer rises in popularity during the Prohibition era. Available in bottles and dispensing barrels, Lyons becomes a well-recognized regional consumer brand.
The strength and scale of Lyons advances with the merger of Magnus Fruit Products, another leading producer of Glace Fruits, Syrups, and Root Beer. The new entity is known as Lyons Magnus, Inc.
The end of Prohibition brings fresh emphasis back to the Lyons wine and spirits portfolio. A comprehensive line in contemporary new packaging is developed, the category is also promoted by nationwide newspaper advertising.
The first Lyons Restaurant opens, a further diversification strategy for the company as industry consolidation impacts the wine and spirits business. The initial location for the diner concept is the Emporium Department Store on Market St. in San Francisco. The restaurant chain meets with success and grows to 30+ locations by the early 1960s. It eventually attracts the interest of conglomerate Consolidated Foods, who acquires Lyons Magnus and Lyons Restaurants in 1966.
Earl and Bob Smittcamp, farmers and operators of Wawona Ranch/Wawona Frozen Foods, acquire the Lyons Magnus entity from Consolidated Foods. The Smittcamps have a goal to expand their product portfolio to value-added manufacturing and move the company to their location in Clovis, California. Consolidated Foods retains the Lyons Restaurant chain.
Bob Smittcamp begins a continuous effort to innovate the processing of fruits, juices, and purees using aseptic process technology. Lyons pioneers the application of aseptic processing with fruit particulates, and the result is fruit preps for ice cream that are both food safe and featured premium flavor and texture. Over the years, Lyons continues to engineer processing equipment to set the standard for fruit identity and retention.
Lyons begins expansion from a regional to national supplier with investment in production and distribution in Florence, KY. The Northern Kentucky location is selected strategically; the central location features 60% of the U.S. population within 600 miles.
Leveraging the Smittcamp farming and fruit processing heritage, Lyons adds fresh strawberry processing capabilities. Positioning is unique in the industry, with capabilities to receive fresh fruit and process it for ultimate use in multiple categories of value-added finished products.
Innovation in the frozen fruit space continues with the introduction of Lyons Frozen Fruit Toppings. A proprietary system to blend fruit with a sweetened slurry results in unparalleled quality for foodservice menu items.
Rapid growth and a vision for further expansion spur investment in a new manufacturing facility and corporate headquarters in Fresno, CA. The additional footprint allows Lyons to commercialize the first multi-serve aseptic filler with a foodservice focus. The packaging alternative to steel cans is new to the industry and paves the way for innovations with juices, smoothies, and thickened beverages for healthcare.
The evolving foodservice industry features a strengthening casual dining channel. Lyons innovates with a new packaging option for indulgent sauces in squeeze bottles that allows operators to create “chef-created” dessert options. The Lyons Designer Dessert Sauce line launches and quickly becomes the leader in the foodservice dessert sauce space.
Lyons continues steady growth and recognizes the need for manufacturing redundancy in order to support national chain restaurants. Land is acquired in Walton, KY and a new manufacturing and distribution center is created. The facility goes through multiple expansion projects over the next two decades.
The specialty coffee channel becomes an increasingly important part of the foodservice landscape and leads to further investment in plastic bottles with pump-out capabilities. The new high speed bottle line in Fresno is designed to fill beverage syrups and sauces, allowing Lyons to become a leader in custom innovation for the largest operators in the country. The same capability is added to the Walton production line-up later in the decade.
Opportunities in the healthcare channel lead Lyons to invest in processing and packaging of shelf-stable portion juices and thickened juices. An innovative cooling system allows Lyons to offer portion juices that retain vibrant color and fresh flavor.
A new high density freezer and strawberry production plant are built on the Fresno site. The investment allows Lyons to expand the strawberry operation and offer this vertical capability to a growing number of specialty beverage menu items for major restaurant chains. A second high density freezer is added in the future.
Lyons’ expertise in aseptic fruit and juice processing drives innovation in the dispensed beverage space with the development of Lyons FlashPak® technology. The advanced process offers operators a preservative-free, shelf-stable dispensing option compared to traditional frozen concentrates.
Lyons installs pouch filling capabilities within Walton facility in response to increasing foodservice operator sentiment towards flexible packaging. The new capability allows innovation on dessert and beverage sauces for the quick service restaurant and specialty coffee channels.
Lyons adds attractive, clear plastic bottles to the available beverage syrup packaging options. The new capability further solidifies Lyons’ market leading role as custom innovator for the specialty coffee channel.
The assets of TRU Aseptics are acquired, an entity yet to start production but with a plan to establish low-acid aseptic manufacturing at their site in Beloit, WI. Lyons expands on the vision for the Beloit facility and completes the investment required to create and commission Lyons Magnus North.
Lyons launches its very first line of Barista Style® Plant Based Milks with a variety of four popular flavors, produced out of its new Beloit, WI low-acid plant.
Lyons opens the new Bob Smittcamp Innovation Center within the Fresno facility. The investment reinforces the company’s commitment to innovation and improves capabilities with the dedicated R&D lab and expanded pilot plant.
Lyons acquires Phillips Syrups and Sauces, a manufacturer of beverages syrups, beverages sauces, and dessert toppings, located in Westlake, OH. Phillips specializes in small-batch operations and further supports growth in the specialty coffee segment.